Homicide victim found in burned-out SUV identified, but the mystery surrounding U.S. fugitive remains
Homicide investigators in B.C.’s Lower Mainland have confirmed the identity of a man found in a burned-out SUV on a forest service road, more than three years after the body was found.
More than three years after his death, a man who was shot dead and found in a burned-out SUV near Squamish, B.C., has been identified as a U.S. citizen known for spreading racist neo-Nazi ideologies and for a massive email spam campaign that led to a $12-million lawsuit.
Police found Davis Wolfgang Hawke dead on the Cheekye Forest Road, off the Sea to Sky Highway east of Paradise Valley, around 9:30 a.m. on June 14, 2017. Officers had been called about a burned, red 2000 GMX Yukon XL on the side of the road.
An autopsy later confirmed the man had been shot to death but, for years, the RCMP could not confirm his real name.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) only knew he went by the alias Jesse James.
Officers said he was well known as an avid climber in Squamish, which is north of Vancouver, but no one knew his legal name or any details about his past.
Brian McWilliams, an investigative journalist and author of the book Spam Kings, spent years tracking the young man, who he says lived a nomadic, risk-taking existence. He often travelled with half-wolf dogs, which were the only thing he appeared to be loyal to, according to McWilliams.
“It doesn’t surprise me that this guy died in an inglorious and maybe a violent way. He was always living on the edge,” McWilliams said.
McWilliams said Hawke, born Andrew Britt Greenbaum, changed his name many times and was evasive when the journalist was chasing him for a story on his junk email or spam empire that earned him millions hawking penis enlargement pills.
McWilliams said Hawke and his associates bragged about making up to $300,000 in a year in the spam business, after dropping out of college.
On Thursday, the IHIT team announced it had confirmed the identity of the person found dead in 2017. They said he was 38 when he died and originally from the United States.
“Although it answers some questions, it’s actually opened up more questions on the case,” IHIT Sgt. Frank Jang said of finding Hawke’s real name.
“We have little to no information about him here in Canada,” the officer said.
But McWilliams has a plethora of information about the “puzzling” young man who grew up in an affluent Boston suburb and was a chess prodigy before rebelling.
McWilliams interviewed him and his family and learned how Greenbaum was bullied as a child for being small and Jewish, before changing his name to Hawke and rejecting his Jewish background.
“At some point, he just became infatuated with this white supremacy notion,” said McWilliams.
“He brought that mentality of everybody being inferior to him into the rest of his life,” he said.
“He was a con man. He felt that he could convince anybody to buy herbal Viagra, just writing some clever email text. This guy was super intelligent and thought there was a sucker born every minute — and he was real good at finding them,” said the author.
AOL won a $12.8 million judgment in federal court in Virginia against Hawke, who never showed for the 2005 trial. The tech giant accused Hawke of breaking federal law by sending massive amounts of unwanted spam emails to its customers.
Investigators believed Hawke and his partners earned more than US $600,000 on the spam sales pitches for loans, pornography, jewelry and prescription drugs.
AOL also won a court order to dig up two properties owned by Hawke’s relatives in Massachusetts to recoup costs, because Hawke had once bragged he buried gold and platinum in the yards, according to U.S. District Court documents.
The company ultimately decided not to search the properties, which belonged to Hawke’s grandmother and parents.
The family said no money was ever found or was ever there.
McWilliams said he always wondered if Hawke would settle down one day and “sell insurance,” but said, “it sounds like he stayed kind of a wild man.”
Hawke’s uncle Raleigh Davis confirmed his death was communicated to the family last week and didn’t want to comment much. He said nobody had seen his nephew in 20 years, so at least this was some closure.
“He was really smart and really clever and really confident in a lot of ways. I think he had a really insecure side though,” said Davis.
“It’s just sad.”
Anyone with more information about Hawke’s death is asked to phone IHIT or, to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers.